Mayor Daley will execute one of his most important symbolic duties today when he presides over the city’s 80th annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. The free festivities kick off with the a cappella troupe Tapestry singing carols from 4 to 4:30 in Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington. There’ll be music from a couple of local school bands and choirs before the actual lighting at 5 or so. Call 744-3315 for more info.
The North Pier shopping complex has planned out an elaborate arrival scenario for Santa this year. The first 1,000 kids there get flashlight keychains to beam up into the sky to light the bearded guy’s way as he cruises overhead, not in a sleigh but in a helicopter. He lands around 6; there’ll be fireworks to follow, and then Santa will receive visitors in the mall until 9. Bozo the Clown and a song and dance show called Cirque de Santa Spectacular will entertain while kids wait for the ‘copter to land. It’s all on the Ogden Slip dock, south of the mall, which is at 455 E. Illinois. It’s all free; call 863-4300.
For nearly three years the Free Associates have been doing the nasty to Tennessee Williams with their improvised weekly theater piece, Cast on a Hot Tin Roof. Now they’re introducing a holiday version, A Dysfunctional Dixie Christmas, which they say is “a lighthearted look at Santa, homosexuality, and shattered dreams.” It runs Fridays and Saturdays through December 11, and then again on Saturday, December 18, at the Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division. Show time is 8 PM, and tickets are $6, $3 if you bring an item for Toys for Tots to distribute to underprivileged kids. There’s also a New Year’s Eve show, which costs $25 in advance, $35 at the door. That starts at 7:30 and includes the usual festive accoutrements: party favors, champagne, and so forth. Call 784-2745.
Chicago’s annual holiday parade–sponsored by a local candy company we don’t feel like mentioning–struts its stuff for the 60th year today. Donny Osmond, who’s performing in a musical we don’t feel like plugging either, serves as grand marshal for the two-hour event, which starts at Michigan and Balbo at noon and goes north to Wacker. It’s free, but if you don’t want to jostle for position with half a million other souls, you can stay home and watch it on Channel 9. Call 935-8747 for parade info.
Aaron Freeman says he’s discovered that “many people only know that Lenny talked dirty, took drugs, and got arrested. They didn’t know that he was really funny. If nothing else this show will expose some classic Brucean humor to a new generation of comedy fans.” He’s talking about Aaron Freeman Does Lenny Bruce, a 75-minute retrospective of some of Bruce’s best bits with some political commentary thrown in. It’s in an open run at the Organic Theater Company Greenhouse Lab Theater, 3319 N. Clark, with shows at 6 and 8 Saturdays. Tickets are $15; call 327-5588.
The Guild Complex at the HotHouse is looking back on the first year of Bill Clinton’s presidency with Grade the President, a panel discussion featuring health activist Sharon Powell, labor leader General Baker, consumer advocate Michelle Kloha, Heartland Journal publisher Michael James, and Joseph Schumann, coauthor of Fighting Back: Gay and Lesbian Draft, Military and Veterans Issues. It runs from 3 to 6 today at the HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee. It’s $5, free if you’re unemployed, and a poetry open mike precedes the talk. Call 477-3737 or 278-2210.
There’s a lunar eclipse on tap tonight, and the Chicago Astronomical Society is setting up a couple of watch stations to enjoy it. Lunar eclipses–that’s when the earth’s shadow covers the moon–can be looked at safely with the naked eye, binoculars, and telescopes. Society members will be out in force to answer questions at both the Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, and North Park Village, 5801 N. Pulaski, from 9 PM on, with the eclipse reaching its fullest extent–what the pros call “totality”–between midnight and 1 AM. Admission is free. Call 725-5618 for more details.
The Museum of Science and Industry’s latest contribution to the centennial celebration of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition is a one-twelfth-size Erector-set model of the fair’s ferris wheel. It’s the largest Erector model ever built, comprising nearly 20,000 pieces and more than 50,000 nuts and bolts. (It was put together by kids at the Bret Harte Elementary School.) Also up through the holiday season is the museum’s annual Christmas Around the World display, with more than 40 trees decorated in the fashions of as many cultures. Both exhibits close January 3. The museum’s at 57th and Lake Shore Drive, and open 9:30 to 4 daily, 9:30 to 5:30 Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. Admission is $5, $4 for seniors, $2 for kids under 13, and free on Thursdays. Call 684-1414 for more.
The Kupona Network is holding their second annual memorial service in honor of African Americans who’ve died of AIDS tonight at 7 at the Robinson Center of Chicago State University, 9501 S. Martin Luther King Drive. It’s free, though parking costs a buck. Call 536-3000 for more.
Day Without Art–the national effort to acknowledge the toll of AIDS on the cultural world–is officially tomorrow, but it starts early this year with a vigil at the Chicago Cultural Center tonight. There’ll be a bunch of speakers, including poet Lisa Buscani and Lois Weisberg, commissioner of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs. There’ll also be singing from the Signs and Wonder Praise Team gospel group. It’s at Preston Bradley Hall in the Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, from 5:30 to 7. Admission is free. Call 226-5149.
Four contributors to a new anthology–The Country of Herself: Short Fiction by Chicago Women–are reading tonight at Unabridged Books, 3251 N. Broadway. Included: Mary Gray Hughes, Patricia Lear, Sharon Solwitz (who wrote the collection’s title story), and sometime Reader contributor S.L. Wisenberg. Things get under way at 7:30. Call 665-0045.
The organizers of the Cafe Brauer Antiques Market say they were inspired by the open-air street markets of New York, London, and Paris to plan this first-Wednesday-of-the-month venue for several dozen midwest antique dealers. The first in the series opens today at the chirpy hour of 6 and runs to 2 in Cafe Brauer’s gorgeous Great Hall. Admission is $4, and the cafe will serve traditional French and English breakfasts. There’s even valet parking. The address is 2021 N. Stockton in Lincoln Park. Call 708-323-8037 for more info.
If you’re trying to get a jump on creative Christmas shopping–that’s cheap creative Christmas shopping–you might check out the Illinois Artisans Shop at the State of Illinois Building (oops, we mean the James R. Thompson Center), 100 W. Randolph. The second-floor art shop features a variety of work from homegrown artists; a special exhibit today features the work of a dozen Illinois craftspeople for $20 and under. You can get pendants, letter openers, ornaments, earrings, cards, brooches, and more at the sale, which runs from 8 to 3. Call 814-5321 or 814-1794.
The New Artist: Ripe for the Rip-Off is the straightforward title of a panel discussion tonight for tyros in the music business. A strong lineup of local vets will answer your questions, including Alligator Records capo Bruce Iglauer, attorney Linda Mensch, producer Steve Hurley, and the Shoes’ Jeff Murphy. It’s from 7 to 9 at Columbia College’s Hokin Center, 623 S. Wabash; it’s put on by the college and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and costs $10, $5 for Columbia students and NARAS members. Call 786-1121.